Here are some great resources on gradients – the new-ish free form gradient tool is a great tool to help you add depth once you are ready.


Gradient tool, panel + color stops

Check out the new gradient annotator and free form gradient tools.

Adobe gradients help

Another good one + adding to the swatches panel.

Additional video  – 4 min.

Excellent branding campaign focused on simple shapes + gradients


Collective Futures

Brushes 101

Thanks for checking in with me, folks! I’m excited about your Animal Totem project.  Here are some additional resources on playing with custom brushes that can really enhance your characters as well.

General info on Brushes from Adobe – pay particular attention to “create a brush” and “brush options” at the bottom.

Symbols and modify symbols

Images below taken from Behance

Adobe: How to create an art brush

Free Brush downloads

Basic Image Effects

blob brush


Free account – 12 free vector brush downloads per month

Free – Best of 2020 Illustrator brushes


Excellent vector hair tutorial – I like this one because by creating a “base” of hair, you can then add as many details as you want. This tutorial goes the full distance, but you could easily embrace the power of just a few strands for added effect. 

Another hair tutorial

From Sketch to Vector

We will be working on your skills “from sketch to vector” the entire semester. Everyone has a different way of working, but I am a firm believer in sketchbooks! I personally like old school ones, but you can even sketch digitally if that works for you.

I mentioned this tutorial in the previous post, because I really love its simplicity.

But also check out one of my favorite designers, Owen Davey.

His website is fantastic – his shop features many animal illustrations that are really great inspiration for this project – and his IG is wonderful too.

Project 1: Animal Totem

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Design Project One: Animal Totems

“From Sketch to Vector” – Surreal Storytelling.

Excellent job last class at our practice exercises!

In our introductory design project, you will sketch and design an Animal Totem to represent you and introduce your style/personality to the class. Your totem can be serious, funny or abstract, but should evoke some emotion. Once you have completed 2-4 sketches in your sketchbook, we will scan them and convert them to vector graphics, trace and add color to them.

Artists have used anthropomorphism since the cave paintings .. and we will continue on this path, finding a new and modern design to a classic trend. Have you seen the movie, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”? and of course, Beatrix Potter books are a childhood classic. Another new one here

This project will introduce you to Illustrator and get you more comfortable with the tool bar.

I really liked this online tutorial for its simplicity.

Design goals: Produce a unique design that shows technical skills in the pen tool, addition of an aesthetically pleasing color scheme and a basic general knowledge of Illustrator.

1. Watch previously assigned intro videos + Check out Chapter 5: Drawing Basics in the PDF textbook

2. Sketch out your animal totem. Produce 2-4 rough sketches. Upload your sketches in the Discussion forum – comment on others ideas.

3. Trace, add color, tweak lines, alter if necessary.

4. Build through use of the pen tool, shape builder, fills, etc.

File should be 8.5″ x 11″ and uploaded as a final version .pdf to the Canvas Assignment. I do not need your .ai files – but you do!

Wednesday, Jan. 12

I will meet you on Zoom via our Canvas course today at 8 a.m. 

Happy first day of Virtual SPRING 2022 semester… Today we will go over the syllabus, our proposed projects, options for online tutorials and basic Illustrator technical questions. Please be sure to look at our syllabus, which you can find here .

Please stay posted as I design our class blog. Follow along and log on from home to access assignments, due dates and links to inspiring designers.

It is very important that you keep up with your projects as well as participate in our virtual critiques- not only for the benefit of your grade, but for your greater benefit towards becoming professional graphic designers!

I’m looking forward to a great semester!

Best, Prof. Miller

Course Description: This entry level course to Illustrator basics will give you the essential skills you need by covering a range of projects and creative explorations. Emphasis will be placed on creative problem solving, the pen tool, shape building, pattern creation and typographic experimentation.

What to expect in terms of method of working: We will use this website for all class assignments, host critiques , as well as have at least one “half-way” check in on each assignment.

And FYI – you can email me ANYTIME for feedback, technical assistance, or just to say hello 😉

Welcome to our first day of class!

We will go over the following logistical things: syllabus, student work examples/projects,

Semester Projects: 

  1. Animal Totem
  2. Infographic
  3. Pattern Design
  4. Music Illustration Poster

In addition:

I will give an overview lecture on Illustrator program basics such as :

What is Illustrator? What are vector graphics?

The PEN tool – the pen tool is one of the most important tools to master in Illustrator. Throughout the semester you will get better at the pen tool, but only with lots of practice!

Setting up new document

Selection vs. Direct Selection

Pen tool basics: add, subtract, convert, handlebars, curves, pencil

Creating/editing shapes + fill with color/stroke, Pen tool, Shape builder and Image Trace demo

Good link on drawing basics

Fun interlude: Play this game for a few minutes to practice the pen tool 😉 

More pen tool resources: 

         Pen tool tips

Other general Adobe Illustrator tutorials

 Practice assignment: With internet images or your own, work on practicing the use of the pen tool. Add and subtract anchor points and merge shapes together. 

  1. Two images traced with the pen tool
  2. Two shapes built with the pen tool – without image reference
  3. Two images traced with the shape builder tool
  4. Two “image traces” (altered differently)

Homework: Finish watching video tutorials, sketchbook brainstorming for Animal Totem project. Install and get Illustrator software completely ready to work!

We will meet next week for live demo and introduction to Animal Totem project.